La Spezia, Italy (Apr. 10)
The head of the political section of the Italian Police, who had been assigned to the Italian ship “Fede” on which 1,040 Jewish refugees are being detained, was removed from his post and arrested by the authorities because he manifested sympathy for the Jews, Jewish leaders told a correspondent of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today.
The correspondent boarded the “Fede” illegally after thrice being refused permission to pay a legal visit to the detained refugees. He rowed two kilometers across the harbor to the pier where the ship was tied up, with its hapless but courageous human cargo defying the authorities to remove them.
The leaders of the refugees told the correspondent the full story of their aborted voyage and their struggle with the authorities. They revealed that when the Allied authorities were informed of their situation, a squad of armed Royal Marines arrived and took up posts on the deck, and sought to cow the refugees into leaving the ship for a camp at Chiavari, a few miles from La Spezia. The Jews, who had survived such extermination camps as Oswiecim, Buchenwald, Birkenau and Mauthausen, refused to move, and the marines finally withdrew.
This was followed by a series of conferences among various British officers’ aid leaders of the refugees, with the British trying to persuade the passengers to disembark, but without success. The leaders on Monday served notice that they would refuse to confer further with the British, and that they would admit on board only an officer who carried a permit for them to proceed to Palestine. Earlier, they had warned that they were determined to sink the ship and drown with it rather than be removed.
PASSENGERS START THIRD DAY OF HUNGER STRIKE; ONE TAKEN TO HOSPITAL
The refugees today were on the third day of a hunger strike to emphasize their determination to go to Palestine. One passenger was so ill as a result of two days of self-imposed starvation that he had to be removed to the La Spezia hospital. Only 11 children among the 1,040 passengers are accepted from the hunger strike. Even the pregnant women are refusing to eat. Scores of women are beginning to show signs of weakness after more than two days without food.
The ship somewhat resembles a Chinese junk, and hardly seems sturdy enough to withstand a two-weeks buffeting at sea. Its hold is divided into two sections separated by a corridor scarcely wide enough to permit a man to walk. On either side of the passage there are row after row of bunks in seven layers. The passengers are obliged to crawl over one another in order to get in or out. The only light or air comes from an opening in the deck above.
The only “document” that the passengers carry is a blue card on which there is a caption reading, “Permit to Enter Palestine,” after which is listed the name of the solder’s father, his birthplace and nationality. Then the legend appears, “The bearer has been found qualified by representatives of the Jewish community of Palestine for repatriation to Palestine.” Under the heading, “Authority,” the following four statements appear:
“1. And they shall abide in the land I have given unto Jacob, My Servant, wherein your father abode, and they shall abide therein, even they and their children’s children forever – Ezekiel 37.”
“2. And with great mercies will I gather thee – Isaiah 54.”
“3. Lord Balfour’s Declaration of Nov. 2, 1917.”
“4. The Mandate for Palestine.”
The leaders of the refugees asked the correspondent to convey to the world the message that they were unflinchingly determined to get to Palestine, or to perish. They also asked that the American, British and Russian ambassadors in Rome come to La Spezia to investigate for themselves, adding that if an attempt to remove them forcibly is made it will end disastrously for the authorities as well as for the refugees.